Thursday, February 09, 2012

Crouching Tiger by Ying Change Compestine

Many of you are aware that I've been learning tai chi for the past ten months or so, and it's something I enjoy quite a lot, both for its meditative aspects and for its health benefits.

And just recently, it was the lunar new year. In fact, this past Saturday, I attended a Chinese New Year's celebration sponsored by the Taijiquan Enthusiasts Organization, which included a traditional Lion dance, a variety of martial arts demonstrations, and a ten-course Chinese banquet. It was a pretty terrific evening.

All this is related to my enthusiasm for today's book, Crouching Tiger by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by Yan Nascimbene, a review copy of which I received from Candlewick Press. (Thanks, Candlewick!)

You see, Crouching Tiger tells the story of an American boy named Vinson (aka Ming Da) who learns tai chi from his Chinese grandfather. At first, Vinson finds the study of tai chi boring, since he has to start with quiet meditation. At first, he also finds his grandfather to be a bit of an embarrassment. When his grandfather uses his tai chi training to avert a serious injury to a stranger, however, Vinson begins to appreciate both his grandfather and his grandfather's martial arts training a bit more. Vinson practices what his grandfather teaches him for quite some time, and the book culminates with a celebration of Chinese New Year in which Vinson plays an integral role. Compestine manages to include within the text a non-pedantic introduction to some of the customs and traditions related to Chinese New Year (woven into the basic story line) as well as a basic explanation of tai chi. An author's note at the end provides additional information on both.

The entire story is illustrated with wonderful art by Yan Nascimbene, who not only provides illustrations that aid the text, but also includes at the bottom of each page of text a small illustration in which the child character demonstrates various tai chi moves or positions. For instance, at the bottom of the spread below, the child is demonstrating a move called "Single Whip":



In my opinion, this is a must-share book for adults who are involved in the martial arts who want to introduce the idea to their children or grandchildren, as well as being a perfect book for all children to explore Chinese New Year or tai chi, and for families dealing with cultural differences between older and younger generations. I am extremely glad to have it as part of my picture book collection at home!


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